I had never had this soup until I started dating my wife nearly 50 years ago when I was introduced to it by her mom, who is a great cook. Her dad is the Greek, but her German mom cooked many Greek dishes. It became a favorite of mine, but I seldom see it on menus.
Years ago, I discovered a local pizzeria that made it and always ordered it. One day it was changed from “Avgolemono Soup” to “Lemon Chicken Soup with Orzo.” In my neck of the woods almost all pizzerias are owned and operated by Greek Americans. I asked the owner why the name change? He said, “I couldn’t give it away as “Avgolemono Soup,” but the same soup is now popular.” Go figure.
Full disclosure: I could, but I don’t make this from scratch. The is definitly a leftover soup for me, and since I made Ina Garten’s amazing “Skillet Roasted Lemon Chicken” this week I had some cooked chicken that already had a lemony flavor. This recipe serves two, but can be doubled.
2 TBS good olive oil (Greek, if you have it)
1 small carrot, peeled and chopped fine
1 small stalk of celery, peeled and chopped fine
1 scallion or shallot, peeled and chopped fine
1 garlic glove, smashed and peeled
1 bay leave
1 pinch oregano
4 cups chicken stock or broth
2/3 cup orzo
1 cup cooked chicken, chopped or shredded
½ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat oil in a pot and sauté the carrot, celery, and scallion for several minutes until they are limp but not brown. Add the garlic and stir for another minute. Add the stock and bring to a boil, then lower the heat to keep a simmer. Simmer for 15 minutes. Raise heat and add the orzo, stirring until soup returns to a boil, simmer for 9 minutes or until the orzo is cooked to your liking.
Meanwhile, make the avgolemono by whisking together the eggs and the lemon juice in a medium bowl until they are frothy.
When the orzo is cooked add the chicken. Here’s the fun part. You have to temper the avgolemono or it will curdle. To do this place the bowl with the eggs next to the pot and slowley ladle in two ladles of soup into the bowl while whisking continuously. Turn off the burner and stir the avgolemono back into the pot. Serve and enjoy!